Alexander Velovich/MOSCOW

ANTONOV ACHIEVED a double first on 16 December 1994, with its An-70 four-prop-fan-powered wide-body transport: flying it for the first time and recording the first take-off of an aircraft powered by prop-fans only.

The aircraft was flown for 28min from Svyatoshino airfield in Kiev to the nearby flight-test airfield of Gostomel. Bad weather kept the maximum height down to 6,500ft (2,000m).

The An-70 was rolled out in February 1994, but the first flight has been delayed by a series of snags, including funding shortages.

The An-70 flight-test programme at Gostomel is expected to last for three months, after which the aircraft will transfer to the Flight Research Institute in Zhukovsky, near Moscow. Antonov plans to exhibit the An-70 at the 1995 Paris Air Show.

Zaporozhye Progress is the builder of the four 10,290kW (13,800hp) D-27 prop-fans used on the aircraft. Prop-fans have previously been fitted to Russian, Ukrainian and US aircraft, but only in test installations on conventionally powered aircraft.

The An-70 was developed originally to meet the requirements of the former Soviet air force. In spite of the break-up of the Soviet Union, Russia appears to be committed to procuring the Ukrainian aircraft. A high-ranking Russian air force delegation attended the ceremony before the first flight. The group was headed by Lt. Gen. Svyatoslav, the service's chief of acquisition.

The position is clouded, however, by the continuing work being undertaken by Tupolev on the rival Tu-330 twin-turbofan freighter which is due to be flown in 1996. Like the An-70, it is intended to be a replacement for the Antonov An-12 Cub.

An agreement between Russia and Ukraine, signed in June 1993, calls for production of 500 aircraft at plants in Kiev and Samara in Russia. Antonov predicts that production will last for 15 years and total 1,500 aircraft.

Source: Flight International